BY Art Thiel 06:22PM 05/04/2018

Avril released; Carroll pushes back on criticism

Seahawks release Cliff Avril after his neck injury Oct. 1 ended his season. Meanwhile, Pete Carroll pushed back against remarks from Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett.

DE Cliff Avril was cut Friday after failing his physical exam. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

The release of DE Cliff Avril, long expected after his neck injury Oct. 1 kept him out for the rest of the season, came to pass Friday when the Seahawks said he failed his physical exam. With DE Michael Bennett, traded to Philadelphia, they formed one of the premier pass-rushing duos in team history.

Both are gone from a defense that also saw the release of CB Richard Sherman. While Avril was a lower-profile, steady hand on a powerhouse defense that helped Seattle reach two Super Bowls, Sherman and Bennett were far more outspoken and brash.

The contentiousness apparently was part of the reason they are no longer in Seattle, based on an interview with coach Pete Carroll on ESPN 710 Friday morning.

Post-release, Sherman said in an interview that Carroll’s messaging had gone stale. Bennett made a similar remark in an interview after the trade when he claimed he brought a book to read during team meetings when Carroll had the floor.

“I’m not sad. I’m not surprised, though,” Carroll said of the remarks by Sherman and Bennett. “We’ve just been through so much. I know where their head is at . . . they can go from one moment to the next and see things a little bit differently, it can change for them, and they’re battling. It would be nice if they saw it differently. I see it differently than they saw it.”

Carroll pushed back on the idea that it was strictly up to him to keep things fresh.

“They have a responsibility to stay fresh, as well,” he said. “They have a responsibility to see it new. They have a responsibility to keep making this a challenge for themselves.

“I’m a teacher. I gotta help these guys learn. I gotta do whatever it takes to get that done and get the communication right. So we’re constantly tweaking, we’re constantly evolving – they need to do the same. The freshness can come from both directions, or see you later. If it isn’t the right place, go. ‘You have to go? You’re out of here.’

“That’s a point I don’t mind making – it was time for these guys to move on.”

Carroll tried to back away some from the spat.

“Regardless of what they say, I’m not gonna be that petty about it,” he said. “They’re trying to figure out how to make it come together in this new setting that they’re in, and it’s difficult on them. It’s a challenge for them too. They’re trying to find their way.

“As always, our kids make mistakes; they falter and they don’t quite pull it off like you like, and then you guide them and you help them. Somewhere down the road everything will be fine. I’m not worried about it.”


After the first practice of the three-day rookie mini-camp Friday at team headquarters, Carroll was more generous in his assessment of Avril, 32, who had 34.5 sacks in Seattle after coming from the Detroit Lions in free agency in 2013. He was a third-round draft choice in 2008.

“He’s been a great leader,” Carroll said. “He’s been a bit of a statesman for us. He always says the right thing, stands for the right stuff and been a really high character guy that you can always count on. A great competitor in the program.

“I love him and would like to keep him connected with our club as long as we can, because he’s just exactly what you hope to represent you. He’s had a great career with us.”

Avril, who posted a reminiscence of his time in Seattle on The Players’ Tribunesaid he hadn’t closed the door on a return to play.

“As of right now, I’m not sure what the future holds for me,” he wrote. “A lot of people have been asking me if I’m considering retirement, and all I can really say is that I’m working closely with my doctors and that I’m going to make the best decision for myself and my family when the time is right.”

Avril’s departure means the Seahawks will save $6 million against the salary cap. That is a noteworthy help, since they began the week just $7.7 million under the cap.




  • Ron

    We will miss Avril, as much as we missed him when he left Super Bowl 49 concussed.

    • WestCoastBias79

      Everyone remembers the play (aka football Voldemort), but everyone seems to forget that they blew a 10 point 4th quarter lead and the defense became a sieve after Avril and Lane were out.

    • art thiel

      Avril is among the brightest, funniest and most sincere guys it has been my pleasure to encounter in Seattle sports.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Do the Hawks have to pay the remainder of the contract? No?

    • art thiel

      They do not. A savings of $6M.

  • Matt Kite

    Avril let his playing do the talking. I’ll miss him far more than Bennett or Sherman, two players whose antics had gone stale. Their remarks really rub me the wrong way. If you can’t keep it fresh while making millions a year to play a game you love, you’ve got a problem no coach can fix.

    • Ron

      Avril will be doing his talking now on a mid-day local sports radio station as his new gig.

  • Tman

    Speaking out on something as important as policemen shooting unarmed black people without cause cost these men their jobs? Why do we punish the messengers and allow the criminals to go free?

    NFL teams stayed in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem until the defense department paid the NFL to have players come onto the field to salute the flag. The idea the spectacle of pro sports is not political is absurd. see the flag adorning their helmets and uniforms.

    I resent my tax dollars being wasted promoting rabid Nationalism on TV.

    Path of least resistance is to stop playing the anthem at NFL games. Problem solved with no loss to anyone.

    We will regret the loss of these players soon enough.

    • Mark Stratton

      I don’t regret the loss of either Sherman or Bennett. They were great players but antagonistic and beyond their shelf life. The topic doesn’t matter, outspokenness is tolerated as long as you’re at the top of your profession. Then it’s not.

      • Tman

        Not sure that is true, see Colin Kaepernick, et al.

      • Tman

        An unarmed Michael Bennet was seriously terrorized by police…threatened with death in the most vulgar and vicious the same way many unarmed blacks are killed. The Las Vegas Police chief calls it Standard Operating Procedure Who should lose their jobs and freedom in this case? Michael Bennet handled himself with grace under the circumstances. All Kaepernick did was take a knee. .

        • art thiel

          Bennett was victimized in Vegas, but how he played his legit outrage card complicated his football life.

      • art thiel

        Bennett’s life has become too complicated for him to manage, much less the Seahawks. And Sherman has become too complicated, period.

        Think about this: He wore out Jim Harbaugh AND Pete Carroll.

    • art thiel

      The departures of Sherman and Bennett had zero to do with their anthem stances. They had conflicts with the coaches about football, and they also were getting hurt and too expensive.

      But you’re right about the NFL’s willingness to pander to power by wrapping itself in the flag. But the anthem/pledge is so woven into our thinking from the red-scare 1950s that it will be hard to pull the thread.

      But I do like the idea of staying in the locker room. Worked well for many years.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art!
    Really gonna miss Avril. Top notch player but even better dude off the field.
    I have to say that I appreciate Carroll addressing Bennett and Sherm. They will always be Hawks, very sad to see them go, but I understand where Pete’s coming from. He’s a wise man. Now that I’ve heard all of that I don’t feel so much in the dark and given the changes they’ve made, I’m more optimistic that it will be a fun season

  • Husky73

    And another piece from that era is gone. Few left.

    • art thiel

      Eight, I believe.

  • tor5

    If the worst thing I could say about my boss is that I’m bored with his rah rah speeches, he would easily qualify as the best boss ever. I gotta respect how Sherm and Bennett played the game, but if they were taking for granted all that Carroll gave to them–the opportunity to become stars, the tolerance and support, the SB rings–then, yes, it was high time for them to move on. The disrespect to Carroll is low class and really diminishes Sherm and Bennett in my book.

    • art thiel

      Long ago, Red Auerbach said most pro players who are with the same coach for seven or eight years get tired of each other.

      Not saying that’s what happened with the Seahawks, but it does sounds a lot like human nature.

  • 1coolguy

    if I saw a player reading a book during a team meeting he would be gone before he made it out the door. What an ass – hardly the example to show the younger players – let alone the disrespect shown the head man.

    • art thiel

      Carroll said it never happened.

  • Joseph Itaya

    Hey Art, greetings from Dublin, Ireland. As always thank you for being a touchstone to home. For the past 20 years I’ve traveling constantly, all over the world. But I’ve subscribed and read every article you’ve written, every day, no matter where in the world I am. It always keeps me centered. Thank you!

    Thank you for pulling together this story that so captures Pete’s wisdom and grace in the face of criticism from his former star players. Pete is human. He recognizes that sports, like life, are cyclical. Now, it’s going to get bumpy – but fascinating – for a little while. I’d still bet on Pete.

  • Mícheál Mac Cionnaith

    Thank You, Art, for yet another great article. A lot of people (and I speak not of you) seem to misunderstand that the Seahawks’ peak years of contention were precisely because they had a lot of low-salary, young talent . . . which, in turn, let them splash out on other needs. I don’t think “the door” has closed (quite yet) for the current Seahawks, but it’s going to take a miracle season. Most everybody in the nation will be rooting for Shaquem Griffin, and the Seahawks are getting back to the younger squads which made them great in the first place. The NFL did them no favors in scheduling 5-of-7 of their first games in 2018 as Away games. I think this season will show how much the younger guys and the veterans both want it. I think this most recent draft will prove to be far better than the pundits have predicted. And then there are players such as Tedric Thompson, of whom we yet don’t really know how good they are. Admittedly, I’m probably overly optimistic, but that’s what each year is about, isn’t it?